Public Policy

Women’s Reproductive Rights – Where Are We Now?
by Claire Noonan, AAUW CA Public Policy

By January 22, 2022, the 49th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States) will have heard arguments on Texas SB 8 legislation banning pregnancy termination after six (6) weeks and Mississippi’s legislation (Dobbs vs. Jackson Women‘s Health Organization) to ban abortion after fifteen (15) weeks.

What are the issues? For Texas, it isn’t about the constitutionality of the legislation, i.e. the fundamental right decided by Roe v Wade. Instead, a decision will be made on the tactics used by the Texas legislature – delegating their enforcement duties to citizens – to preclude lawsuits against the State. The decision on the Mississippi legislation will be straightforward. One, SCOTUS could overturn Roe v Wade. Two, the court could limit legal standing to challenges on state law, e.g. doc-tors wouldn’t be able to challenge on behalf of patients. Three, new legal standards for the evaluation of abortion regulations may be created so states aren’t required to show that the benefits of an abortion ban outweigh the undue burden to patients – reversing Planned Parenthood v Casey. (Women’s Health Policy, 11/21/2021)

One hundred six (106) state laws have been passed to restrict abortion in 2021. Activists, like AAUW, are bringing lawsuits before the Supreme Court. AAUW has submitted an amicus brief for Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as to the constitutionality of the Mississippi law. In addition, the ACLU and others have brought lawsuits against other Mississippi abortion-related legislation like regulations for informed consent, a waiting period before the procedure, and ban on telemedicine visits.

Surveys show that 60-70% of Americans approve of abortion in all or most circumstances. Only 20% think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. (New York Times, Upshot (5/19/2021). AAUW and AAUW California stand with the majority, and the time to act is now. We must pressure the Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. The legislation must become law in this session. Unfair changes in representation have occurred with redistricting. Votes in the 2022 mid-term elections that would elect representatives who would vote for this bill could be suppressed.

Detailed information on the current position for women’s reproductive health is available from the Guttmacher Institute.